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How to Dry Your Dog: Best Practices to Get Your Dog Completely Dry


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When your dog is wet — whether it’s from a bath, swimming, or a walk in damp weather — it’s important to dry them thoroughly. Drying your dog helps keep them warm, prevents mats, tangles, and bacteria growth (which may lead to skin infections), and helps eliminate the “wet dog” smell. While drying your dog’s fur, you can also closely check your dog’s skin for any lumps, bumps, scrapes, scabs, or skin irritations that might need veterinary attention. There are different methods to drying your dog, and you can train them to be comfortable with towel-drying or being blown dry. Here’s what you need to know about how to dry your dog.

What to Consider Before Drying Your Dog

Know Your Dog’s Coat Type

It’s a good idea to dry off any wet dog, regardless of breed, size, or coat type. However, it may take less time and effort to dry some dogs (like those with short coats) than others (like corded breeds, double-coated breeds, or dogs with long coats). The more hair or fur your dog has, the more important it is to dry them effectively, which helps to keep tangles and mats from forming.

Grooming; 2023 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin, Dec 15-17, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL.
Stephanie Hayes ©American Kennel Club

If you have a short-coated dog, you can dry them off with a dog towel. However, if your dog has a longer and thicker coat, you may want to first towel-dry them, then use a dog dryer to finish the job.

Help Your Dog Get Used to Being Handled

Not all dogs are comfortable having their body touched. Many dogs can be sensitive to anyone touching body parts like their face, feet, and legs, even beloved owners. As a result, they may struggle with letting someone dry their fur. To deal with this, you can work to make your dog more comfortable with being handled, working at a pace comfortable for them. You could ease them into it with dog head wraps when drying them, to also protect their ears and face until you get to drying that section. These wraps often have a calming effect on dogs, so it could also help them feel more positively towards the experience.

If you have a puppy, you can start out by gently examining their body, praising and giving them a treat as you look at each part. If you have an older dog whose body sensitive, you may want to try counterconditioning (changing your dog’s associations of being touched from negative to positive). Starting with areas that are the least sensitive, gently touch an area of your dog, rewarding them with praise and treat. You can also mark their calm response to being handled with a training clicker.

How to Dry Your Dog with a Towel

Consider getting towels specifically designed for dogs. Microfiber dog towels are lightweight and easy to use, and they absorb more water than your average bath towel.

Your first instinct might be to take the towel and rub them with it to dry your dog as quickly as possible. But this actually isn’t the best way to dry your dog. Rubbing the towel vigorously can cause tangles to develop and mats to form in your dog’s fur.

Instead of rubbing, press the towel gently into your dog’s fur. This allows the towel to soak up water without creating tangles.

Brussels-Griffon-wrapped-in-a-towel-afte
Okssi68 via Getty Images Plus

Introducing Your Dog to a Towel

Before you start drying your dog, it’s important to let your dog become comfortable with a towel. Here’s how to introduce your dog to one.

  1. Put the towel down for your dog to explore. Praise your dog, and use dog treats to reward them for showing for any interest (like approaching or sniffing the towel). We want to make sure that our dogs are comfortable with the towel’s presence and don’t see it as something frightening.
  2. Pick up the towel while your dog is nearby. Praise and reward your dog for being comfortable around you while you’re holding the towel.
  3. Bring the towel close to a part of your dog’s body, somewhere they’re comfortable being touched (like their back). Gently touch the towel to your dog’s fur there, then praise and treat your dog. As your dog gets more comfortable, build up to softly pressing the towel into their fur.
  4. Continue building up your dog’s level of comfort regarding the towel touching their body. After starting with areas your dog is comfortable with you touching, gradually work up to handling more sensitive areas (like feet).

How to Dry Your Dog With a Blow-Dryer

Why Use a Dog Blow-Dryer?

It can be difficult to fully dry dogs with thick fur with just a towel. Dryers help remove excess moisture from your dog’s fur and skin, which can prevent skin irritations.

But it’s important not to use a human blow-dryer on your dog. Instead, you’ll want to choose a dryer that is specifically designed for a dog’s sensitive skin and coat. High-velocity dog dryers, sometimes called “forced-air dryers,” work by blowing the water out of your dog’s coat. These dog dryers usually look like small canister vacuums with a nozzle.

When you use a dog dryer, the airflow, not heat, is drying their fur. Try to avoid using heat on your dog’s fur, since it might burn their skin, or a crate dryer, since some dogs may find being in contained with a dryer stressful.

Grooming; 2023 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin, Dec 15-17, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL.
Stephanie Hayes ©American Kennel Club

Introducing Your Dog to a Dog Blow-Dryer

You’ll want to get our dogs comfortable with a blow-dryer before using one. Going slowly, aim to help them develop positive feelings and associations with the dryer. You can do this by pairing exposure to the dryer with rewards like treats.

  1. Let your dog explore the dryer while it’s turned off. Put the dryer on the ground. Allow your dog to explore it. Praise them and give them treats if they engage with the dryer by sniffing and/or approaching it.
  2. Many dog dryers have built-in noise-reducing sponges, but dogs may still find their sound scary. For this reason, we want to change our dog’s association of the dryer noise from negative to positive, a process called counterconditioning, by pairing the dryer sound with rewards. Once your dog is comfortable with a turned-off dryer, bring the dryer to the other end of the room. Turn it on, and praise and treat your dog for remaining in the same room. Allow your dog to be fully comfortable and confident in the same room as the dryer turned on before moving to Step 3.
  3. With each training session, bring your dog closer and closer to the switched-on dryer. Continue to praise and reward your dog, building and reinforcing positive associations with the dryer noise. While giving your dog treats as a reward, gently handle different parts of their body. Touch them in the same way you would if you were using a dryer.
  4. Once your dog is comfortable being in the same room as a switched-on dryer, we want to help the dog be comfortable with someone drying them. We will work up to this. Start by keeping the dryer on a low setting and pointing the dog dryer nozzle towards your dog from a distance. This allows them to get used to the feel of air blowing. Give lots of praise and treats to your dog. Try scattering a small handful of training treats for them to eat while the air is blowing, or give them dog a lick mat with a soft, spreadable, high-value treat like dog-safe bacon and cheese spray. This increases the experience’s value for your dog.
  5. As your dog becomes comfortable with air blowing on them, you can move the nozzle closer to your dog and begin to dry their fur. Be sure to keep the dryer away from your dog’s face and ears, since the air could hurt those delicate areas.

Keep dryer training sessions short, fun, and successful. During each training session, you can build up to longer drying sessions until you are able to dry all of your dog’s fur.

The post How to Dry Your Dog: Best Practices to Get Your Dog Completely Dry appeared first on American Kennel Club.

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